Tuesday, July 30, 2013

35 Nigerian Senators, Yerima and Section 29:4b - Lawbreakers Not Lawmakers

'I live in a city where young girls at the age of 12 have already became serial fornicators and cannot count the number of men they were intimate with. I live in a city where school children disvirgin themselves behind toilets on valentine’s day. I live in a city where young girls flood the street at night looking for men that would give them N500 to be intimate with them. I live in city where parents send their daughters out overseas to prostitute and send dollars down. I live in a city where government officials pick undergraduates from university car parks with coastal buses to wild sex parties. I live in a city where abortion is so common that even a chemist shop owner can perform abortion with just N2500.
These are your daughters, and this should worry you not Yerima's private matters. So ask me again why I support early child marriage and I will slap the Jinn out of you' - Senator Yerima.

I am hoping that this statement did not actually come out from the lips of Yerima. Cause that juicy sentence about ‘I live in a city where government officials pick undergraduates from university car parks with coastal buses to wild sex parties’ deserves further investigation. Don’t you agree? Who are these government officials? Is it that he knows of this abuse of government property and finance and says nothing about it? Is it that he knows about the amoral conduct of his fellow government officials and did not call them to order rather waited till this opportune moment when he can fling it in our faces with scorn?
Wait, he also lives in a society where 12 year olds are being sexually abused and he a lawmaker looks and walks away because it is okay?!!
Tell me again why our tax money is paying this man’s salaries???!!!

But let me not digress from the focus of my post.

I have been following the #ChildnotBride protests with interest. My emotions have ranged from ‘Our Senators have gone mad again type dismay’,

To logic ‘but Section 29, sub section 4b. (wonderful, I can now quote a subsection of our law!!) isn’t about childbrides is it? Yes, I can see how easy it is to extrapolate the loophole in this law to more dangerous even political ramifications. If marriage now confers adult reasoning on a girlbride, reasoning enough to make decisions as heavy as renouncing her citizenship, maybe In 2015, a husband can arguably present his underage wife to vote afterall, as  she is of ‘full age’ to marry, she is old enough to determine her future leader.

3 things finally set me off:

First, the unnecessary and divisive argument that this is a propaganda against the North by Southern Nigeria.
Do you think it is? I don’t think so.
The Northern situation is a cause for concern for any right-thinking Nigerian. And its amazing that everyone else can see it except the people involved. Yerima and his co defenders might call the West and South ‘hypocrites’ for not removing the logs of premarital sex, prostitution, abortion in their eyes before poking at his. But they might ask themselves which zone has the highest burden of underage girls sentenced to a life of VVF, little or no access to medical care without permission of their male lord and masters, under-achieveing girls in education (the recent cut off marks for federal common entrance is a well known fact), girls who have been told their only value in life is as a bride .

I saw this comment by a Kendra on diarybyemmy.com and it broke my heart
“As for d senate, I come from d north and Emmy dis story is deeper than d passing of dis bill or act or whatever. Small girls of between 4-9 yrs old pass in front of my house when returning from Islamiyya classes and all this children talk about is marriage, their husband’s houses, when they get married how they will cook, their fine fine marriage clothes etc. I live among PROFESSORS! Yes Professors! And these VERY EDUCATED MEN have married brides fresh off primary school. And as Islam permits four wives, they marry these girls when they r really young, suck out their youth and divorce them in time to make space for a new one. Most of them r divorced as teens or in their 20s.Right under my eyes my neighbour’s daughter was eating herself FAT so dat Alhaji will consider her unattractive and take back his marriage proposal but seeing that her mum has 8 kids from an Alhaji who is too old to take care of his children (you see d future of this trend?), d poor girl had to go. And this man is a top official in a FEDERAL university. He had just cleared up all his wives for this new blood. And when he divorces her, she will be referred to as “Bazaura” which is a derogatory term for female divorces in d north, most of which r absorbed into other men’s harems or used by men for extra marital sex. I live in a dirty society that uses religion to mask its sins. My poor north. It is well”… - See more at: http://diarybyemmy.com/losers-week-part-2/#comments

That is the legacy of the north to their young girls. And yet Yerima and Co do not see anything wrong in that?

Secondly, this opinion post on YNaija by a Habeeb Kolade who expunged all the English words in his vocabulary with this pompus statement: ‘The Child Not Bride campaign was uncalled for and insightfully a representation of our collective ignorance of the law binding the Nigerian society and also our unwillingness to seek proper knowledge when approached with these kinds of situations especially when our sense of reasoning had been murdered by sentiments’.
Guy, you are the one who has not done your homework.

Thirdly, the fact that it was Senator Yerima that raised the point in the senate meeting. If Senator Yerima a known child marriage practice, who isn’t a lawyer, and who I cant vouchsafe his educational status could foresee where/how this law could clash with entrenched Islamic practices then shouldn’t we all be wary? Can a fox advise a farmer how to protect his chickens?

There should never be ambiguity in the law.  Section 4b is an ambiguous statement which should not exist in our law books.  Laws are there to illuminate. To provide clarification.

(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age is an ambiguous statement which begs the question ‘what is the marriageable age for women in Nigeria’?

Marriageable age or marriage age is the age at which a person is allowed by law to marry, either as a right or subject to parental or other forms of consent. And guess what? Nigeria’s marriageable age is 18.

Backed by 2 beautiful documents,
First The Nigerian Child right act 2003. There it is clearly stated that,

21. No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
22.—(1) No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person.
          (2) A betrothal in contravention of Subsection (1) of this section is null and void.
23. A person—
(a) who marries a child; or
(b) to whom a child is betrothed; or
(c) who promotes the marriage of a child; or
(d) who betroths a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of x500,000 (five hundred thousand Naira) or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The protocol was adopted by the African Union on 11 July 2003 at its second summit in Maputo, Mozambique.  Of the 53 member countries in the African Union, the heads of states of 46 countries (including my dear Nigeria) signed the protocol, and as of July 2010, 28 of those countries had ratified and deposited the protocol (Nigeria included) meaning it is now an enforceable law.
Article 6 which is on Marriage states that
a) no marriage shall take place without the free and full  consent of both parties;
b) the minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years;

Clearly, that ambiguous statement in section 29b should be DELETED like yesterday, because it goes against Nigerian Laws.
As for Sen. Yerima who cited religious practices as an excuse, I have neither seen any clause which says that Sharia law is allowed to prevail OVER the law of the Land nor did I see any addendum which allows marriage at a slightly younger age with parental or judicial approval like it happens in some other countries (marriage at minimum 15 years with parents/judicial approval).

Moreover Sir, your dishonorable self should have been impeached like yesterday based on contravention of Section 23A, C and D - Marriage to a 13yr old, boasting that you can give out your 6 yr old daughter in marriage if you wish , and the entire dishonorable rant above.

Lastly, Senator Yerima/Co might also pay heed to this wise woman, Judge Maryam Uwais and stop quoting the Holy Quran to suit their purposes.
It is certainly not mandatory in Islam that girls must be married off as minors, so to keep insisting that this practice must remain sacrosanct, given the background of needs in Northern Nigeria, is incongruous, even under the Shari’a. Where a practice is determined to be merely permissible and not mandatory, it is considered practicable and entirely feasible within Islamic jurisprudence, to discourage or prohibit it, where it is found to be so harmful to individuals and to the community”. VanguardNews

The President, Senators, Governors, House of Assembly, Nigerian bar Association, Civil right activists, fellow Nigerians, this is simple really. We are not asking for anything new. It is already in our laws. Dear Lawmakers your job is to enforce it. Section 29, subsection 4b goes against The Child Right Act 2003 and The Maputo Protocol. Kindly Delete it. That’s all.

I think it is tragic and shameful that our lawmakers neither know the law nor can be entrusted to uphold it.


  1. There is nothing wrong with the #ChildNotBride campaign. The dangers of VVF, denial of formal education, etc. should be highlighted. However, the campain should be carried out in its own right.

    Though Section 29 (4b) of the constitution is not essential, there is nothing ambiguous about that section of the constitution. It clearly state that "For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section." That is for and only for the purpose of subsection 1, which deals on renouncing citizenship, any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age. For the purpose of driving, voting or being voted for, the constitution makes provision elsewhere.

    That section of the constitution has never had anything to do with marriage. Therefore, even if it was deleted, Yerima could still marry another 13 year old girl before our eyes without breaking the law.

    The Child Right Act 2003 is only effective for marriages contracted in civil courts or registries. It does not apply to traditional marriage such as igba nkwu. Item 61 of the Second schedule of the constitution states that the federal government/National assembly is responsible for "The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law"

    Yerima did not understand section 29(4b) of the constitution, that is why he became jittery and brought religious argument into it. When our illiterate senators are faced with unnecessary religious argument, they vote 'religiously'.

    I agree Section 29(4b) of the constitution serves no purpose. I have heard people argue that it will protect British, Canadian, Austrian, Russian girls married to Nigerian men, since the marriage age in those countries is 16 years. But the truth is those girls can divorce, go back to their countries and renounce Nigerian citizenship two years later when they are 18.

    1. Hello Ibrahim. Thank you for your contribution to this post!!

      I agree with you that Section 29:4b was only pertinent to matters of renouncement of citizenship but by retaining sub 4b, it acknowledged that we might have 'underage' wives and brides and the uproar is ' why we should have that/Why does the govt acknowledge it like its normal/and what are they doing about it.

      Thanks for drawing my attention to the limitations of the Child Right Act 2003. I think it is quite a shame that such limitations exist. All children should be treated same before the law. Customary law and religious law should bow to Federal law especially in the care of the vulnerable - women/children/disabled.

  2. I dint even finish the post, after I read his statements. When you hear the words that come out of the mouth of some politicians, you wonder if they know exactly what they are supposed to be doing in a position of servant-leadership.

    1. I feel you Atilola. Most have no sense of shame or responsibility.

  3. Really @ Ibrahim, nothing ambiguous you say? If a person is deemed an adult at 18 what then makes okay for someone below that age to make a decision as weighty as renouncing her citizenship on the basis of just being married. Then again assuming marriage confers some inexplicable maturity, why does the sub-section refer to the female gender alone? It is soooooo frigging unnecessary and the mere fact that the religious card was being used to keep it in is worrisome. We should work to fix ALL our laws, one statute at a time. Let's not wax philosophical here biko

    1. @ Chinene, you are right, perhaps that section should have stated that anyone who is married shall be deemed to be of full age. In that case, young boys would come in.

      In fact, it was the constitution review committee, which Yerima is a member, that recommended that section 29 (4b) be deleted. All the senators were to vote for its deletion based on the fact that gender has no bearing on citizenship in Nigeria as that section suggests. However, in the last minute before the voting, Yerima changed his mind and said its deletion is against Sharia. We all know what religious or ethnic sentiments can do in our country.

      But most people got the issue mixed up, surprisingly, most campaigners on the #ChildNotBride tag, thought the senate passed a new law promoting child marriage.

      As I stated in my earlier comment, that section serves no purpose and should be deleted. Again, child marriage is bad. But we should get our arguments right. Secondly, most of our illiterate senators are easily swayed by North vs South, or Christian vs Muslim arguments.

      @ Chinene, religious and ethnic card will always be played in Nigeria. And when you play it, you win. It is not the first time Yerima has played it. Please don't get me wrong, I don't support it! Watch how Yerima did it here http://youtu.be/ec751MK7j1M . Note that contrary to Yerima's belief, deletion of that section will not mean that any woman that is married will not be of age.

    2. @Chinene
      Thank you for weighing in!
      Your 'We should work to fix ALL our laws, one statute at a time' says it all. No need to hold on to laws and statutes that do not benefit or that wink at injustice.



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